|Minneota’s pro, Les Josephson, comes home|
By Byron Higgin
Les Josephson graduated from Minneota High School in 1960.
Little did he know, 50 years later he’d return for just the second time as a home-town folk-hero.
The 11-year professional for the Los Angeles Rams not only watched Minneota play Friday night but saw two other Josephsons, Adam and Isaac, play for the Vikings.
“It brought back memories,” said Josephson. “I played eight-man football when I was in high school here so it’s a little bit different game,” Josephson said.
He talked about his Minneota years, including his four years in high school when Viking teams lost just one football game and only eight basketball games.
“Minneota did an excellent job with execution on offense and defense,” Josephson said about the current team.
When asked if he could still walk after 11 years in the pros he said, “I’ve had 11 surgerys so far, on various parts of the body. But hopefully medical science is progressing so injuries as severe as mine were, can be corrected.”
At Minneota Josephson was on the football, basketball and track teams, then went to Augustana College in Sioux Falls, SD, going from one Viking team to another.
“I had the opportunity to sign with the Minnesota Vikings but was still in NCAA track competition so I had to turn them down,” he said. That would have been his third Viking team.
At Minneota he high jumped just 5-10, but went 6-5 in college.
“It was 11 very good years,” he said of his professional career. He missed one year because of an injury. He had a torn achilles tendon in 1968. He had just a 40 percent chance of walking normally then played six more years.
“It was something I never had any dream of doing, coming out of Minneota,” Josephson said.
He was a free agent and he called it, “Being in the right place at the right time.”
He originally signed with Dallas but the Cowboys traded him to the Rams. “In training camp, after the first two pre-season games he was with Dallas, then was, “With the Rams the whole time.”
Josephson, who was always a running back, once held several Ram records. He’s still seventh in the history of the Rams in total yards.
He said it was tougher to make the team in his day because there were just 40-man rosters and now rosters have been expanded to 53 players.
“It’s been fun and it’s fun to come back,” he said, adding, “Last night was the second football game of Minneota’s I’ve seen since I graduated.”
He broadcast University of Arizona football games for 20 years and didn’t get the chance to leave during the football season. “We’ve been kinda tied up,” he said.
During his time with the Rams he played with such famous pros as Merlin Olson, Roman Gabriel, Jack Snow and Roosevelt (Rosie) Grier.
Josephson lives in Tucson, AZ and is retired.
“I keep up with football and we tailgated Arizona football for a number of years, even while I was broadcasting,” Josephson said.
“We enjoy them at home and do a lot of traveling with our motor home,” he added.
One of his major thrills was, “Playing a lot as a rookie. He played against the Green Bay Packers and Coach Vince Lombardi. He had his photo (above, left) taken with Lombardi and that photo appeared in Sports Illustrated.
A few years ago he visited the Hall of Fame in Canton, OH and was astonished by how many members of the hall he played against.
“It was an inspiring experience,” he said.
“The opportunities I’ve had, I wouldn’t trade for anything,” Josephson said.
“I had a graduate assistantship to get my master’s degree in anatomy and physiology and I hung onto that until I had to make a choice of going all the way with football,” he said.
“I went to Coach Tom Landry (Dallas Cowboy coach) and wanted to find out if I’m going to make this football team or not because I’ve got a scholarship. I let them know.”
Landry apparently told Josephson, “We have a scrimmage coming up on Saturday and I’ll let you know after the scrimmage.”
The scrimmage was, “One of those days you dream about,” said Josephson. Landry saw him later and said, “You’re not going anywhere, are you?”
He answered, “I guess not.”
The rest is history.
Josephson went on to do some acting in films such as, “Heaven Can Wait,”, “Superdome,” “Police Woman - Death Game,” “The Feather and Father Gang,” a series and the series, “The Six Million Dollar Man.”
On Sunday Josephson was honored in the Bug Days Parade and also was honored by Scott Josephson, Boxelder Bug Day Chairman.
“It’s been fun to be home,” Josephson said.